Old Diary

A Place to Lay Our Head

Our New Home

Our New Home

To say that today was filled with ups and downs would be unfair to an elevator!  We had them:  emotionally, physcially, and geographically. In and out and up and down to pack up and travel.  In and out and up and down along the route — hilly and twisty.  In and out and up and down about where our new home might be.

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Water lapping at our tail…

This morning when I woke I looked out the door and the Mississippi was lapping at our rear.  It’s hard to realize how much water this river “holds”.  We were at the widest point of the Mississippi — it’s nearly three miles wide at Thomson, and a dozen miles or so long in this pool for lock #13.  How much water is contained in a lake three miles by twelve miles — if it’s only 1 foot deep?  Or how much water has rushed into that same lake if it suddenly rises two, three, four, or more feet?  It boggles my mind to imagine.

By the time we pulled out this morning the camp hosts were gone and only about 5 units remained — all of whom were being forced out by flood waters.  The Corps will have finished shutting it down by this time and I see on The Weather Channel that flooding is being reported in Fulton IL.

Last night — late — I listened to another message from the people up here at Blackhawk Park.  After assigning us a temporary site yesterday the weather forecast was revised again and we were told (too late to call them back) that they might be closing later this week.  So, last night we wondered what to do.  It’s the busiest week of the year for campgrounds coming up — 4th of July. My resources for places to camp were all telling me this was not going to be easy and we could possibly end up with a couple hundred mile drive to a campground we might LIKE or at least 50-70 miles to a KOA campground which we would be less than keen on .

We got moving around 5:30 and by 7:30 we had packed up, slid in, disconnected, dumped and refilled our fresh water supply — we were ready to go.  And goodness gracious, if the rain that had been plaguing us all night didn’t come to just about a halt.  Saying a prayer for safe traveling mercies we high-tailed it North.

We stopped in Galena for coffee AND….  Literally as we were re-entereing the coach the phone rang again with a call from … you guessed it… the rangers at Blackhawk. The forecast had changed again overnight — they had MISSED a couple rain events and they were hopeful — even optimisitic that we’d be Ok here for at least most of our stay if not all.

Reassured we continued our journey northward with a stop for groceries (Prairie du Chien) and  a stop to look at binoculars (Cabela’s – Prairie du Chien).  The river highway — HWY 35 — had mud slides over the weekend and the highway was closed so we retraced our steps and found a detour.  Finally, about 1 p.m. we arrived in De Soto and pulled into site #67. The first shot shows us in our site.

This area is quite open, with little shade, but when faced with a lot of booked-to-the-gills campgrounds we were happy to have our choice of sites in this area and not to have to scurry for last minute accommodations.

We slowed down enough to snap a few shots of the flooded section.  Just outside the park is a small bait and campers’ supply store.  The owner told us they have been flooded out 5 (FIVE) times since May 1, 2013!!!  Considering last year there wasn’t enough water in the river to keep barge traffic moving — and now flooding — it’s quite a change.

We decided to celebrate with Pastrami sammies — pastrami, mustard, mayo, lettuce, on a sourdough baguette!  Add in a little cole slaw and a beer and it was a meal fit for a king – or if not a king, then at least for Edward X. Delaney!

We’ll be here for 14 nights, Good Lord willin’ and if the creek don’t rise.  Kathryn is scheduled to visit next week for what may be her last visit with us until after Labor Day, so it’s good not to have had to divert a couple hundred miles in the wrong direction.

Our life here will be different than planned — we would normally do a lot of walking here — the place is spread out and there are places TO walk.  But with the flooding we may focus on getting some of that still-put-off organizing work done — especially as regards the basement.  But for now, the awnings are out, the curtains are drawn to keep ourselves cool and we’re basking in the delights of woodpecker rattles, and warblers, and watching turtles sunning on floating logs.  Life is Good!

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Old Diary

Living on a Moebius Strip

We spend half of our life running upside down. That’s because life is rather like a moebius strip. There is no end at which you can say: I’ve arrived.

Take a piece of paper, give it 1/2 a twist and fasten it back upon itself. It’s the never ending race course; the track without an end.  Run the length of the original piece and you end up on the other side of the paper.  Run the length again and you’re back on the first side.  You’ll never get to the end of the paper.

Have you ever thought about human society as being roughly equivalent to living on a moebius strip.  The tragic events of yesterday at one Connecticut elementary school — an event that has echoed around the nation and the world for 24 hours — is but another example of a world upside down.

I’ve been thinking about this for some weeks now.  It seems to me – having been born and raised in a very different world than I inhabit today – that everything I know has pretty much been turned upside down.

I grew up in a time when age was valued.  Old age was a good sign.  People liked long lasting companies; they didn’t trust start-up companies.  Older people were thought to have some wisdom and writings by them were generally treated with some respect.  No one wanted to be the first person to buy a new product because there were sure to be defects (there being no such thing as ISO certification back then).  People held “values” like honesty & integrity, and they believed that work should actually produce something.  Religion was still popular and people actually thought that there was a way they were supposed to live.

Today there’s a lot of talk about religion but fewer and fewer people are practicing believers.  New companies are the place to be.  New products are not only welomed, we rush to stand in line to buy them. Software has us thinking that products may or may not be tangible and we now have people with huge wealth who have not produced anything but who have leeched off of the productive part of society by doing nothing more than buying and selling, speculating on price and making and breaking markets.

Most of what I grew up thinking was good has little value today — a point that was made quite graphically when we decided to downsize our possessions.  The one abiding, amazing, nearly unbelievable reality was that people were willing to spend ridiculous amounts for things I thought worthless, and things I thought had some value were deemed disposable.moebius

I have always welcomed change — and on most levels I still do — one has no choice but to keep running around that Moebius strip.  I’m not morbid about what has happened, but the reality of life is that change eventually brings you back to where you began.

The microcosm example of this is fashion.  Mens’ ties have been narrow, and wide and narrow and wide and whatever they are now — which is mostly not worn.  Women’s skirts have been long and short and long and short — eventually you have to go back to where you came from.  And no matter how much men might like short skirts, there will come a time when people will get tired of seeing flesh all the time and fashion houses will want an excuse to sell people more clothing and the “style” will change.

About some things we are slow to change.  Most of my life government has been trying to get American drives to “like”  small, fuel-efficient cars.  As long as gas prices stay high American buy smaller cars.  When gas prices start to dip we flock back to our huge land yachts by the hundreds of thousands.  As eaters we have known for half a century the dangers of sugar and poor diet, we have had the resources to eat healthy, and what do we do:  we have eaten ourselves to the doors of the fat farm, adult onset diabetes is an epidemic, and there’s little indication we have learned a gosh darn thing.

Carousel Lavender_WagonIn time we may learn; in time we may change.  We’ll all keep running around this great big Moebius strip we call life and we allwill find out what it’s like to have life change right around you.  Younger readers can laugh all they want — but assuming that you live to a ripe old age, you’ll have the same experience we are having now.  When I was in my 20’s we knew an old gentleman who was 100 yrs old.  When driving him home to the South Side of Chicago from the Loop he would tell us stories about how he had moved to Chicago from Philadelphia in a BUCKBOARD. He showed us where he first lived — next to a giant willow — and that was nearly in the middle of downtown, a site which is currently all concrete, steel and glass.  His generation went from moving at the speed of horses to flying to the moon.  In my generation much of the change has been in less visible forms.  The first computers weighed a ton, required constant refrigeration, clean rooms in which to be installed, and cost immense amounts of money.  Today, the average cell phone has more computing power than the computers that took men to the moon, or that powered huge corporations.  We think of these things as virtually throwaway tools because each time a new model comes out we rush to replace our aging ( 2 yr old ) phones with the latest and greatest model with the newest operating system.

How change will manifest itself for this next generation has yet to be seen.  When I look out at the job market and wonder what my grand-daughter will do I am happy I grew up when I did.  When I view the industrial pollution that has fouled water supplies, killed off thousands of species to extinction, consider the chemical food additives that seem to be poisoning the food supply — well, I’m glad that I’m at midpoint of my life and not at the beginning.

It troubles me that there seems to no longer be anything like innocence. I don’t understand why parents are in such a big hurry to wean children out of childhood, but dont have time to spend with them.  It’s cliche I know to say that when I was a kid I only had one thing to play with: the outdoors.  But I find it incredibly sad that parents are too fearful of their children’s safety to let them out of the house to play in their own yard.  I used to leave the house in the morning and never return again till the street lights came on — Paint-PaddleI was too busy having fun to worry about stopping to eat — but then I’d scarf up everything in sight when I walked in the door.  My parents owned a mom & pop hardware store.  My most common “toy” was a paint mixing paddle, a couple thread spools, and  a few brads.  My buddy and I would make boats out of 1 paddle each, a spool of thread, nailed to it, and we’d spend the whole day floating them down any old creek we could find.  I know, I’m easily amused.  But I learned to occupy myself and I learned to appreciate what I had.  I wish my grand daughter could do the same.  Instead, for her “excitement” is rummaging through urban detritus — called URBEX-ing.  I seems strange that in 50 yr’s life should cycle so that prospects of the future see urban destruction and decay rather than the unlimited opportunities what we saw when we were kids.  I don’t know how to change that.  I think we have a pretty good relationship between generations in our family but there are times I have no idea how to inspire that same unlimited optimism that I knew in a world where gun toting shooters kill innocent children for no obvious reason.

I don’t have answers; I have a lot of questions.  But one thing for sure.  I’m on this Moebius strip and I’m running like crazy because I sure don’t wanna fall off.  And don’t nobody get any ideas about pushing me off either cuz I’m a cantankerous old geezer.

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Old Diary

Palm Trees to Snowballs

We had a great day for a drive.  After I woke up way too early to leave, I spent some time in the hotel lobby writing and by the time I ran out of battery it was time to think about getting up (for the girls, that is).  We had breakfast at Huddle House — my first time ever. It was a nice enough breakfast.  Similar (to me) to Waffle House.

We got started about 8 a.m. and finally pulled into our hotel in Pigeon Forge about 6 p.m.  Considering we only drove about 360 miles the time alone should tell you that we did a bunch of stopping.  And that we did, including lunch at Shoney‘s in Clyde N.C..  I have not been in a Shoney’s in at last a decade.  The last three times I visited them I either didn’t get seated, or acknowledged, or a waiter hadn’t bothered to come by the table to give us a menu — and each successive time I left without eating.  How hard is it for the guy at the register (who isn’t the host/ess) to at least say, “Someone will be with you in a minute.”  So, as often as we go out to eat, I suspect laxity cost them a few hundred dollars in sales.  But today our meal was quite nice.  I’m not in a huge hurry to return, but I’m sure I will return.

When we left Pooler GA there were palm trees.  When we arrived in Cherokee NC we were in the snow.  Wow.

Our GPS wanted to route us via the Blue Ridge Parkway (about 10 miles) to the Great Smokies National Park.  When we got to the Blue Ridge Parkway entrance, lo and behold, the parkway was closed because of snow.  Barricade across the road and everything. We made a re-route and arrived at the park just hoping that U.S. 441 was open through the park.  Fortunately it was.  A closure would have resulted in more than a hundred mile sidetrip.

The weather today was infinitely better than it was last week.  Clear skies, temps in the 50’s & 60’s, not too many cars, just a great day to be in a National Park.  Most of the leaves are gone now, but the addition of snow in the park made the visit extra special.

I’ll sharemore pics over time, but one part of the day that was special was this short area of icicles.  I’ll play around with a few of these and maybe have a couple nice images.

The Smokies are THE MOST VISITED National Park — they are within a 2 day drive of over 1/2 the population of the country and they are gorgeous.  Many people living South of the Smokies rarely see snow, and there were visitors from Texas, Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, etc.,  You have to realize that these people were not putting up with the snow, they were exalting in it.  Snowballs, and snowmen and faces in the snow, and snow angels… young and old… so many of them were ecstatic to see the snow, to be in it, to play in it.  I met one old boy from Florida (now — he’s originally from Ohio) and he said it’s been 18 years since he’s seen the snow.  He was amazed at the snow in the mountains.

Saturday we have about a 13 hour drive.  I don’t know what time we’ll leave the hotel, but it will be a long day.  This will post after we have left I’m sure.

In the meantime, I hear from Milwaukee that Michael has finished the patching and sanding — the walls are ready for paint.  So, painting party it is!!!!!  Might start Sunday, or maybe Monday — but I’m sure we’ll have it finished up in a couple days.

And that’s about it for now.  I’ll talk to you tomorrow.

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